Giving your dog different food treat rewards for good behavior is a fun and effective way of training. Using a variety of treats will also help keep your dog from getting bored, and keep him interested in training.
Training treats are best if they are tempting and delicious, small or easy to break into small pieces, easy to carry, and healthy. It is also good to have some that mean less to your pup (like his dog food) and more valuable treats (like meat) so you can reward less important or more important reactions appropriately.
Use your dog’s regular food as treats:
- Dry dog food: If your dog likes his dry food enough to do tricks for it, you can use it for training. This works for less important training, not as valuable reactions, and dogs on a diet. One way to make dry food more exciting is to put it in a paper bag with some small pieces of bacon for a few hours to let it soak up some of the scent.
- Wet/canned food: You can put this in a jar or bowl, and give one bite or lick per trick.
“People Food” makes great dog treats:
- Chopped fresh meat: You can dry fresh meat out a bit in the microwave by cooking it uncovered for 30 seconds at a time. Any meat works well. If you are, however, using a high fat meat like sausage only use a small amount or your pup can get an upset tummy.
- Jar baby food, meat flavored: Give your dog one lick per trick. You can even reuse the jars by refilling them with yogurt or peanut butter.
- Cheese: Mozzarella, Cheddar and Colby work well as they are not sticky or crumbly. String cheese is also great for training since it is convenient & can break into small pieces easily.
- Chopped veggies, like green beans: Some veggies, like raw carrots, are not always digested well but are healthy and may just “come out” looking the same as they went in. This makes them great for a dog on a diet!
- Chopped fruit, like apples: Dogs love fruits, and it is also a healthier option. You should always check to be sure a fruit is not dangerous for a dog before using, for example grapes, peaches and apricots are NOT good for dogs. Some good options are apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon.
Store Bought Treats: When buying store bought treats, look for high quality, healthy ingredients like meat, cheese, eggs, nuts, etc. and try to avoid ingredients that you are not familiar with.
Homemade Dog Training Treats: A great way to save money on treats and keep your dog healthy and happy is to make your own training treats.
Tuna Training Bars:
- 1 6-oz. can tuna in water, undrained
- 1 egg
- ½ cup rice or oat flour
- Parmesan cheese
Mash the tuna and water in a bowl with a fork to get the clumps out, then liquefy in a blender or food processor. Add extra water (in very small amounts) if needed to liquefy completely. Pour into a bowl and add flour. This should be the consistency of a cake mix. Spread into a greased or sprayed square cake pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. When done, the edges will pull away and the texture will be like putty. Use a pizza cutter to slice into small squares. These freeze great, and dogs love them!
Turkey Training Treats:
- 2 pounds ground turkey (pure turkey, not turkey sausage)
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups oatmeal
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
Mix all ingredients together and pat into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into thick strips as these do not hold together when slicing into small squares. Freeze unused portions and keep the portions you’re using refrigerated. These have the consistency of meatloaf. When you are using the treats, break off pieces of the strips to give to your dog.